Flow Systems has recruited around 10 people in the last six months and has plans to hire around another 10 in the coming months to join the team of 80 to 90 people.
The recruitment drive is to help the company cope with an influx of work providing embedded energy systems, mainly in Queensland but also a few in NSW.
NSW projects include a 1GWh power and gas embedded power network at Norwest in Sydney that’s expected to save residents of the Sekisui House development around 35 per cent on power and gas costs.
After going into voluntary administration early last year, the company was bought by Morrison & Co, a New Zealand-headquartered company that manages assets on behalf of investors. The asset manager bought the company from Brookfield on behalf of a consortium of its existing clients.
Speaking with The Fifth Estate, Leckie says the company, which provides innovative and sustainable residential water and embedded energy networks in New South Wales and Queensland, is currently focused on helping its energy customers navigate the disruptive Covid conditions.
Leckie says that the market for solar in residential shows no signs of slowing in Australia, with close to every second home buyer considering solar options for their house.
The company is currently talking to a number of developers about community scale solar options.
On water, the company was recently issued its 10th licence from the NSW government to provide a recycled water treatment plant at property developer Celestino’s new Glossodia estate.
The private water utility will provide complete sewerage and recycled water services to the 580-home estate.
Despite the new work in the Hawkesbury region, Leckie says it’s not been easy going for private water operators in NSW.
In June, the Audit Office of NSW published at unflattering report into Sydney’s water conservation efforts, finding that water recycling, stormwater harvesting, leakage management and water efficiency programs in Greater Sydney had all but stalled over the past eight to 10 years.
Private water utilities and local governments leading the charge on water recycling and conservation
Leckie says private retailers and local governments such as the City of Sydney have been pushing ahead with water conservation projects despite lacklustre support at the state level.
Despite a less-than-optimal regulatory environment, Australian local governments and private water operators have developed workarounds to press ahead with water conservation schemes in the city.
These include the Central Park water precinct, the Green Square town centre stormwater harvesting scheme and the Bingara Gorge recycled water scheme.
“That’s without any support, any handouts or facilitating regulation.”
For Leckie, what’s missing is leadership. He says the government should be looking for ways to stimulate and facilitate innovation in water conservation.
He says the UK’s independent economic regulator of water and wastewater services, Ofwat, has the right idea.
As part of Covid recovery measures, the UK regulator has allocated £200 million towards competitions that will reward public and private innovations that overcome challenges facing water and wastewater in the region.
These challenges include global pressures such as the climate crisis and population growth, as well as an existing regulatory framework that’s restricting innovation.
Boom and bust on water security
In Australia, it’s typical for periods of drought to trigger water conservation measures that fall away when it starts raining again.
Leckie says that with pressure such as climate change and increasing population putting pressure on water supplies it’s short-sighted to stop activity now that the Warragamba dam is overflowing.
It can also take years to get some of these projects up and working, he adds.
What will be interested is whether consumers will start taking water security more seriously in the wake of the drought like when the rainwater tank industry took off during and after the Millennium drought.
“When you have a drought and are living in a new house and want to establish your garden, and then find you aren’t allowed to under water restrictions, you realise the value of water.”
There’s signs people are starting to wake up to the value of water, with home buyers increasingly drawn to rivers and creeks to secure personal water supplies.
Leckie suspects the back-to-back crises of Covid, the summer bushfires and the drought will have people thinking a little differently about the value of water, and favouring neighbourhoods serviced by water recycling so that parks are kept green and urban heat island effect mitigated.